SHOCK enters the holiday home stretch with this look at the infamous EC comics Christmas story “…AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE”.
Before EC comics publisher William Gaines was accused of seducing the innocent and pulled the plug on his original run of graphic, cruel and incredible horror titles in the mid-1950s, EC had managed to churn out dozens upon dozens of amazingly gory, gorgeously illustrated morality tales and, in the process, leave an indelible mark upon the minds of an entire generation of young, impressionable readers.
Indeed, the EC title TALES FROM THE CRYPT is forever branded upon pop culture, not just because of its existence in that mythical comic form (the likes of which have since been re-printed countless times in various forms) but in a series of authorized films, a television show, a childrens animated program and countless homages (George A. Romeros CREEPSHOW being a sterling example of one of the good tributes) and ripoffs.
But considering Christmas hits at the end of this week, SHOCK wants to waste a few words and muse on one of ECs more seasonal offerings, EC comics fixture Johnny Craigs chilling bad Santa psychodrama AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE…, from TALES sister magazine THE VAULT OF HORROR, issue #35.
The classic story sees a morally bankrupt, cheating wife murder her doting husband on Christmas Eve while her young daughter sleeps upstairs. As she celebrates her crime and plans to clean up the scene, she hears on the radio that a lunatic has recently escaped from a nearby asylum; the man is a murderer and is apparently thought to be wearing a Santa suit. Very soon, the killer comes to call and as the woman tries to lock her doors and fend off the drooling St. Nick, her daughter keeps waking up and calling to her. Of course, the woman cannot let the child know whats going on, nor can she call the police due to her own homicidal indiscretions. When she finally thinks shes foiled the madman, she hears her daughters voice calling to her from the living room. The cold sting in the tale sees the little girl holding the murderers hand and telling her mom that she found Santa and helpfully let him inside!
Its a classic EC noir-from-hell heartstopper.
Check out the awesome fan-made motion comic of the original Craig panels below
In 1972, British horror film studio Amicus Pictures hired the great Freddie Francis (DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, TROG, Oscar winning cinematographer for THE ELEPHANT MAN) to direct their version of the EC universe in the still horrifying omnibus TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Less sensational and lurid than the books, this TALES is an elegant, mannered and yet truly scary work of somber, jet black horror. Its first tale is in fact an adaptation of AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE…, starring sexpot Joan Collins as the hustling housewife, who bloodily slays her Shriner-cap wearing hubby while fending off the evil Santa (Oliver MacGreevy). In its short 12 minute running time, the adaptation strips away some of the sensationalism of its source and delivers a blackly comic, uniquely British Gothic suspenser whose chilling atmosphere is aided immeasurably by the eerie, non-stop choral Christmas carols endlessly playing on the radio while Collins goes about her dire deeds and fiend-foiling maneuvers.
Here is that segment in its entirety:
After a slew of no-doubt TALES-inspired killer Claus flicks that followed this famous film (CHRISTMAS EVIL, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT etc.), in 1989 Hollywood producer/directors and lifelong EC comics fans Walter Hill, Richard Donner and Robert Zemeckis, David Geffen and Joel Silver launched their own, decidedly adult TALES FROM THE CRYPT TV series for HBO and, as a tribute to the original film that they all also adored, opted to adapt AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE… as their first episode.
Their version and indeed the entire run of the show itself was an explicit quote on the comics, with a much more gruesome, broadly-painted approach to the narrative and more heavy-handed physical characterizations (and it also had the now famous, appropriately zombifed version of the Crypt Keeper host from the comics, here wearing the same Santa disguise he wore in the original tale’s opening and closing) while keeping the suspense just as high as it was in the Francis film. The short was directed by Zemeckis from a script by NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and THE MONSTER SQUAD helmer Fred Dekker and starred Mary Elle Trainor as the lethal wife/victim, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2’s Marshall Bell as her eventually dead husband and DR. GIGGLES Larry Drake as the rotten-toothed Santa. While not as disturbing as the original comic story or as chilly as the Amicus adaptation, this is still an essential slice of EC ephemera.
Here is that episode in its entirety
Merry Christmas from SHOCK. Please don’t kill your spouse. But if you must, lock your doors .